Resource Efficient Innovations Database (REID)

Adding bubbles to PET facilitates light-weighting

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Adding bubbles to PET facilitates light-weighting
Microcellular technology greatly reduces the materials use for plastic packaging solutions such as thermoformed trays.
In Use – Commercially available in the US

Benefits
Packaging Reduction, Resource efficiency (e.g. filling line efficiency)

Product Categories
Drinks, Food, Home Improvement, Household & Personal Care

Relevant Materials
Plastic – Flexible, Plastic – rigid

Relevant Packaging Formats
Flexible & Films, Other

Supply Chain Phase
Production

Details

A company has developed a process to introduce bubbles to plastic to produce very light-weight products which use less material. The process involves a roll of solid plastic prepared for saturation by layering it with a porous material. The roll is then pressurized with a gas such as food grade CO2. The interleaved porous material provides a pathway for the gas to saturate the polymer roll. Once saturated, the polymer is removed from the vessel and heated. As the polymer softens, billions of gas bubbles nucleate in the polymer, reducing the density and causing expansion. In general, this microcellular process increases the length and width by 150% and the thickness by about 200%. This expansion results in a dramatic decrease in density, typically to about 20% density relative to the original polymer material.
 
Very precise control of bubble size and placement eliminates the need to use potentially harmful foaming agents. Starting with virgin, blended, or recycled PET, micro-bubbles are introduced. Where foamed plastic might show only dozens of random bubbles in a cross section, the microcellular sheet incorporates billions of precisely distributed bubbles. By varying the size and density of the bubbles, the manufacturer can control the character of the finished sheet.
 
The Ad-air® technology has been developed and resistered by Microgreen Polymers Inc of the USA. The resulting materials is named InCycle™
 
The content in this entry has been obtained from publicly available information sources only (e.g. press releases, website and trade press articles) and is subject to completion of a validation process with the technology supplier.

Potential Benefits

Ad-air® technology greatly reduces the environmental impact of plastic containers by reducing the source material used. Flatsheet application savings are typically in the range from 60 to 80%, and convolute and thermoformed containers typically exhibit 50 to 60% savings, depending on the performance requirements of the final application. For example, the amount of source material required to produce one 20 oz. PET bottle made from conventional PET can produce seven 12-oz. InCycle cups.

Intellectual Property

The Ad-air® and InCycle™ technologies has been developed and resistered by Microgreen Polymers Inc of the USA.

Consultant View

This is another good example of using innovative solutions to reduce the amount of packaging material entering the supply chain. By adding bubbles to the material this manufacturer has created a very light-weight material which should yield significant environmental benefits in terms of packaging material reduction and associated reductions in emissions and other impacts.  At the same time the resulting material has excellent insulating properties and is 100% recyclable.
 
Reviewers who are interested in this article should consult the REID database to discover other technologies which aim to reduce packaging materials. Try searching the database using search terms such as "Light-weight", "Light-weighting" and "Packaging reduction" for other relevant examples.

Contacts and Further Information

MicroGREEN Polymers, Inc.
7220 201st Street NE
Arlington, WA 98223-7477, USA
Phone: (360) 435-7400
www.microgreeninc.com

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